Dustin's triumph

January 23, 2004|by DAN KAUFFMAN

In the realm of the shot put circle, where the biggest and strongest roam, Dustin Carr might tower above them all.

In a sport measured by physical strength and power, Carr could easily be overlooked. The South Hagerstown High School sophomore is barely 5 feet tall, diminutive by the standards set by his competition. His shot attempts fall short on the measuring tape.

But when Carr competes, it is something to watch. It is a triumph, even if he doesn't manage to score a point for the Rebels.


Final results mean little because Carr competes while overcoming the disadvantages caused by multiple sclerosis in his legs and a right arm rendered nearly useless by a stroke when he was in the first grade.

"I'm so proud of him when he does that kind of stuff," his father, Robin, said. "To me, it's like he doesn't have a handicap."

Carr won't believe he has a handicap either. Despite the walker that accompanies him as a constant reminder of his afflictions, Carr asked for the chance to compete with the Rebels' track team.

That was the first courageous step that brought him to compete last Friday at the Monocacy Valley Athletic League Antietam Conference track championships at Hagerstown Community College's athletic complex. He looked seemingly out of place among what are generally each school's largest athletes, but fits in comfortably because of his personal fortitude and drive.

Dustin Carr has always been a fighter.

He never had a choice.

Dustin was born 12 weeks before his due date, surviving while his twin brother was stillborn.

A dedicated student, he typically arrives at school early, where on many occasions he sat with South track coach Brian Ferrari.

Then, one day last fall, Carr asked what he called a "spur of the moment" question that caught Ferrari by surprise.

"He asked me, 'Could I be on the track team?'" Ferrari recalled. "I didn't want to turn him down, so I said 'yes.'"

Ferrari's next thought was: "What can I have him do?"

Ferrari weighed the possibilities, looking for a meaningful competition for Carr. After some investigating and a discussion with throws coach Dave Schofield, Ferrari found a possible spot for Carr.

"Dave and I talked about it, and he asked, 'Is he strong enough to hold a shot?'" Ferrari said. "And it turned out he could."

That set the dominos tumbling and sent Carr home to his father with the news. Robin Carr, like Ferrari, was cautious, but he also was optimistic about his son's request.

"He comes home and says, 'Dad, I want to throw the shot put,'" Robin Carr said. "I said, 'Sure, do whatever you want.' I'm envisioning all these big guys throwing it, but he's strong in his other arm. You can feel it when he grabs you."

It wasn't long until Dustin Carr started showing his fighting spirit.

"The whole team does drills in the hall," Ferrari said. "He'll fall in the hall but he'll get back up. His glasses fall apart and he puts them back together and it doesn't stop him, though it scares me sometimes."

Through early-season practices, Schofield's top priority was to make sure Carr's setbacks didn't dampen his enthusiasm.

"The biggest challenge is trying to get him to not be discouraged at what he can't do," Schofield said. "That was my concern, was him getting discouraged because he couldn't do what everyone else does. But he's such a good kid, it doesn't affect him. I can honestly say I don't think we've had another kid come to practice every day. He does more than we could possibly expect."

Carr admits he never expected the training to be so difficult. He gives his coaches and teammates credit for helping him get through it.

"What I thought in my head and what actually was, was two different things," Carr said. "I wasn't really ready for this, but as you can see I have great coaches. ... I'm glad (my teammates) are behind me 100 percent.

"For me, it's a whole new setting. Instead of just hitting the books really hard, I'm taking track and school both head on. They help balance each other out."

In an event where a throw of 50 feet is considered a top-notch achievement in high school competition, Carr's goal is both humble and daunting - 10 feet.

"He's hit it twice in practice (last week)," Schofield said. "It's unofficial, but I've never seen him throw it that far."

So far, Carr's best effort in a meet is 9 feet, 6 inches and it didn't go unnoticed.

"There was one kid who congratulated me who told me I would get 10 feet, and after every throw his teammates clapped for me," Dustin said. "It makes me feel very happy."

According to Schofield, Carr's last attempt this indoor track season will come next weekend in a junior varsity meet at HCC. For that meet, Carr and Schofield have another goal in mind.

"His goal is to walk over, pick up the shot, walk into the circle without his walker and without anybody to catch him, make his throw and then walk out the back without his walker," Schofield said. "I don't even care if he hits 10 feet, I want him to do that."

No matter what happens, Carr's perseverance will prove victory is a relative term to his coaches, teammates and competitors.

"The biggest thing I hope athletes would take away from it is dedication," Schofield said. "He has never beat anyone and he may never beat anyone, but he still works as hard as he can just to do his best all the time."

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